In Concert

On a recent Throwback Thursday, a suggested playlist popped up on Spotify that caught my attention, “Oldies but Goodies.” I started the playlist enthusiastically, not having the ability to pre-screen the mix. The first song to play was Sisqo's "Thong Song." At that moment, I wasn't quite sure what offended me more, that a song from my middle school days was considered an oldie by some younger-than-me-millennial, or that Sisqo would be in a category of "Oldies but Goodies." An oldie evokes ideas of classics, songs that withstand the test of time and musical fads. Songs, bands, singers, and songwriters that make "Greatest Songs of All Time" lists by the most reputable industry minds. "Oldies but Goodies" are timeless, and the best example of this happened only one short week ago at Ravinia with The Temptations and The Beach Boys.

No better groups epitomize Golden Oldies than The Temptations and The Beach Boys. Together they represent an incredible era of music from the 50, the 60s, and 70s from the pop-like rhythm and blues of Motown to the surf sound with electric guitars and vocal harmonies. Both musical styles were on full display Sunday night at Ravinia.

The Temptations performed with the gusto of men half their age. Their glee was palpable as they breezed through their dancing arrangements in perfect unison to their major hits like "Ain't to proud to beg," "Papa was a rolling stone" and their anthem "My Girl." Accompanied by a big band and master of ceremony, the group moved seamlessly from song to song not breaking for more than a breath or a drink of water. For 45 minutes straight the five men put on a show that is simply unseen in today's music. They were charismatic and engaging, their vocals and showmanship from another era. Unfortunately, their performance was lost on the audience in the pavilion seats. With tickets running as high $150/seat you'd expect those spending the money to see the group up close would be eager to see them, sing with them, dance with them. On the contrary, the pavilion guests appeared by bored, almost inconvenienced when they were asked to get up and sing and dance along. It seemed like they were there more for nostalgia; not present as fans of the music or the musical legends, but in remembrance of a bygone era and in mourning for youth. The seats were lost on those that tried to buy their time back.

The Beach Boys' set, in contrast to the rhythm of Motown, played with the same ease of an ocean at sunset, each song getting its play and lazily meeting the next. "Good Vibrations" had plenty of time to crash across the lawn seats before the group started "Sloop John B" or "God Only Knows." I rode the sound waves out to the lawn to meet up with friends and stretch my legs from the pavilion seats. Perhaps it was the extra space and freedom of the lawn seats, or perhaps just The Beach Boys themselves, but people were up, dancing and belting out every word. Beach balls by the dozens were hit from fan group to fan group, smiling and laughing even when some were smacked into heads, or in my case, my wine. The evening really captured the surf sound, listening to wavy-like music against a setting summer sun with a cold drink and good friends. This vibe still couldn't penetrate the pavilion seats, and having left my seat I couldn't return until there was a designated break in the music set. Though the group took at least 4-5 minutes to get from song to song there wasn't enough time to get people to their seat. But watching the audience I was reminded of The Beach Boys' earliest days, performing in matching short-sleeved button up shirts, slouchy with their hands in their pockets. Most guests sat the same way, slouchy, hands in their pockets and grimaces on their face. I spent the rest of the show on the lawn hitting beach balls, drinking wine, and crooning along to "Kokomo."

You can classify Sisqo as an oldie to appeal to older millennials and get clicks on trendy music apps, but true oldies (songs and bands) live across generations, draw thousands of fans to a suburban music venue, and can be enjoyed by kids young and old. Those are the only songs that can be considered Oldies But Goodies, even if the goodies can't be enjoyed by the people who are now "oldies." Ravinia has shows that extend through September, see what they have to offer at www.ravinia.org.



Published in In Concert
Tuesday, 07 July 2015 00:00

Brian Wilson Brings History to Ravina

It’s always nice to watch a legend perform, especially when that legend is considered a revolutionary force in the music industry as we now know it. This was the case last evening when Brian Wilson, co-founder of the surf rock band, The Beach Boys, took the stage at Ravinia. Complimented by original Beach Boys’ member Al Jardine and a large band that included more recent writing partner Scott Bennett on keyboards and even Blondie Chaplin on a handful of songs, Wilson’s sound was full and the peachy keen harmonies ever so familiar done to perfection.  

Planted behind a large white grand piano, Wilson and friends immediately kicked it into high gear with “Heroes and Villains”. Though Wilson has long since abandoned the high voice synonymous with The Beach Boys sound, he was still able to carry a tune and did get a lot of help from band members when it came to harmonies and surrendered a handful of leads throughout the evening.

SAM 0382One brilliant piece of music history was performed after another. “California Girls”, “Little Deuce Coupe”, “I Get Around”, “In My Room” – so simplistic, yet so genius. In all, over thirty songs were played, mostly Beach Boys’ songs but also a couple Wilson had comprised for his own solo career, including “One Kind of Love”. Wilson also admirably handled leads on a few songs done by former Beach Boys Carl Wilson and Mike Love. 

Interestingly enough, just before playing “Surf’s Up”, a classic ballad about guess what – surfing, Wilson stated to the crowd that the song was his least favorite to play live, leaving us fans thinking, “Well, why are you playing the song then? You have a million to choose from.” Kind of a weird moment, but what would a Brian Wilson show be without one. Nonetheless, each song was played inspired and with vigor and that’s all you can really ask for when someone has been performing the same songs for nearly fifty years.

The set continued with greats like “Darlin’” (dedicated to the late Carl Wilson), “Sloop John B”, “Don’t Worry Baby” and a beautiful version of “God Only Knows”. “Since you loved that song so much, we’re going to give you some “Good Vibrations”, Wilson declared as they went into the song.  

After a brief departure from the stage, the band returned to knock out five hits without pause – “All Summer Long”, Help Me, Rhonda”, “Barbara Ann”, Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Fun, Fun, Fun”. The energy on stage was at its highest during the multitude of encore numbers, as Wilson raised his hands to simulate surfing and band members ran back and forth from one end to the other. It was certainly a high note to end the show with when Wilson opted to rather end the night with the much lower-keyed “Love and Mercy” in promotion of the latest film on Brian Wilson – Love and Mercy.         

All in all, Brian Wilson and band played an enthusiastic set, each song as polished and youthful as ever. What is better than sitting back on a balmy summer night and listening to Beach Boys classics sung by Brian Wilson himself?

Even the opening act was inspiring as the night began with Rodriguez, the musician featured in the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. Rodriguez is an amazing musician who became huge in other parts of the country, particularly South Africa, and never even knew he had achieved any fame at all. In fact, most presumed he was dead. Rodriguez, aided by just his trusty guitar, warmed the crowd nicely, tapping into “Sugar Man”, “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and a peppy cover of “Fever”. With little words Rodriguez preached against violence towards women and reminded us that hate is too much of a powerful emotion to be wasted on those we do not like.

For upcoming events at Ravinia, visit www.Ravinia.org.

   

Published in In Concert

Ravinia plays host to so many memorable concerts throughout the year, but one of the most unforgettable came last Tuesday night when The Beach Boys shared the stage with the legendary Temptations. Amply called “Surf and Soul” audience members were able to take in some of the most celebrated classics in music history under the stars.

Taking the stage first were the Temptations led by Bruce Williamson and the band’s only original member, Otis Williams. Dressed in matching, brightly colored suits the band clapped, spun and added some fancy footwork to such favorites as “Treat Her Like A Lady”, “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, “Just My Imagination” and “My Girl”. Gracing the crowd with smooth harmonies and romantic lyrics, the Temptations still had women swooning as they probably did some fifty years ago.

After a healthy set of soulful bliss, The Beach Boys then came out to perform headed by original members Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. Fun videos of 1960s nostalgia and band footage were displayed on each side of the stage throughout the show while The Beach Boys launched into an array of their famous surf hits. Strangely however, Brian Wilson seemed to be shunned from such footage barring a few quick shots were it was nearly impossible to exclude him. Obviously missing was Brian and Carl Wilson, but the band still managed to pull off a highly efficient performance taking on such songs (most Mike Love driven hits) as “”Do It Again”, “Sloop John B”, “Surfin’ USA”, “Catch A Wave”, “Be True To Your School”, “409” and “I Get Around”. Also thrown into the set, and maybe a bit unnecessarily, was Mike Love’s solo project number “Pisces Brothers”. The band did venture into a few Brian Wilson led songs with the touring musicians handling his high vocal range quite nicely – the same goes for the terrific harmonies in each song.

The Beach Boys played two songs from Pet Sounds – “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows”, the latter of which the band got creative with the jumbo screens to allow the late Carl Wilson sing the lead (as only it should be) while they gently played and sang harmonies underneath. Ending on a high note, Love and gang jumped into the band’s last big hit “Kokomo” from the late 1980s and their ever so popular anthem “Good Vibrations”.

Not to be a band that walks away from challenges, Mike Love was greeted with a bucket of ice water over his head in support of ALS awareness to put the finishing touches on a fully enjoyable experience.

Overall, though at times a bit sad to be reminded of our mortality and the inevitable aging process we all must endure, both bands were thoroughly entertaining, tight and most of all – fun. I can only hope both will return to Ravinia in 2015. Surf’s still up, boys! 

Published in In Concert

 

 

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